Lifestyle and Burnout: A Bad Marriage

Carol Peckham

|Disclosures|March 27, 2013

Burnout's Effects on Public Service and Religiosity


As with pastimes and vacations, in the Medscape survey the proportion of burned-out vs not burned-out physicians matched up closely in the types of volunteer work they did. About 21% of both groups did pro-bono clinical work, 22% of their work was associated with religious organizations, and 14% volunteered in their children's schools. The largest difference between the groups was in not volunteering at all: 31% of the burned-out group and 27% of the non-burned-out group.

Religion and Spirituality

According to a 2008 Pew Report, 88% of Americans believe in God or a universal spirit.[30] In the Medscape poll, instead of asking for specific religious affiliations, we wanted to know whether physicians have a spiritual belief, regardless of active participation. There was no difference in the burnout vs non-burnout groups, but physicians tend to be less religious than the general population. When asked whether they have any religious or spiritual belief, 74% of burned-out physicians and 76% of those not burned out said that they do.

When physicians who claimed to have a religious or spiritual belief were asked whether they actively attended services, a slight difference emerged between the burned-out and non-burned-out groups, with 57% of the burned-out believers attending services vs 62% of their peer believers.

Latest in Family Medicine/Primary Care


  1. Shanafelt TD, Boone S, Tan L, et al. Burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance among US physicians relative to the general US population. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172:1377-1385. Accessed February 7, 2013.

  2. Melville NA. Why are MDs burning out in record numbers? Medscape Medical News. November 27, 2012. Accessed March 13, 2013.

  3. Shanafelt TD, Bradley KA, Wipf JE, Back AL. Burnout and self-reported patient care in an internal medicine residency program. Ann Intern Med. 2002;136:358-367. Abstract

  4. West CP, Huschka MM, Novotny PJ, et al. Association of perceived medical errors with resident distress and empathy: a prospective longitudinal study. JAMA. 2006;296:1071-1078. Abstract

  5. Firth-Cozens J, Greenhalgh J. Doctors' perceptions of the links between stress and lowered clinical care. Soc Sci Med. 1997;44:1017-1022. Abstract

  6. Gold KJ, Sen A, Schwenk TL. Details on suicide among US physicians: data from the National Violent Death Reporting System. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2013;35:45-49. Accessed February 8, 2013.

  7. Schernhammer ES, Colditz GA. Suicide rates among physicians: a quantitative and gender assessment (meta-analysis). Am J Psychiatry. 2004;161:2295-2302. Abstract

  8. CDC. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Prevalence and trends data. Physical activity - 2011 Accessed February 9, 2011.

  9. CDC. Health, United States, 2011; with special feature on socioeconomic status and health. US Department of Health and Human Services. National Center for Health Statistics. Accessed March 18, 2013

  10. CDC. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Prevalence and trends data. Overweight and obesity (BMI) -- 2011 weight classification by body mass index (BMI). Accessed February 9, 2011

  11. Buss J. Associations between obesity and stress and shift work among nurses. Workplace Health Saf. 2012;60:453-458.

  12. Nevanperä NJ, Hopsu L, Kuosma E, Ukkola O, Uitti J, Laitinen JH. Occupational burnout, eating behavior, and weight among working women Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95:934-943.

  13. Nyberg ST, Heikkilä K, Fransson EI, et al. Job strain in relation to body mass index: pooled analysis of 160 000 adults from 13 cohort studies. J Intern Med. 2012;272:65-73. Abstract

  14. Hochberg MS, Berman RS, Kalet AL, Zabar SR, Gillespie C, Pachter HL. The stress of residency: recognizing the signs of depression and suicide in you and your fellow residents. Am J Surg. 2013;205:141-146. Abstract

  15. Riboldi L, Bordini L, Ferrario MM. Fitness for work in health care workers: state of the art and possible operational recommendations for its formulation and management in relationship to alcohol and drug addiction. Med Lav. 2012;103:203-211. Abstract

  16. Oreskovich MR, Kaups KL, Balch CM, et al. Prevalence of alcohol use disorders among American surgeons. Arch Surg. 2012;147:168-174. Abstract

  17. CDC. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Prevalence and trends data. Tobacco use - 2011. Adults who are current smokers. Accessed February 9, 2011.

  18. Newport F. U.S. drinking rate edges up slightly to 25-year high. Gallup Wellbeing. July 30, 2010. Accessed February 4, 2012.

  19. CDC. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Prevalence and trends data. Alcohol consumption - 2011. Accessed February 4, 2012.

  20. Figley CR. Compassion fatigue: psychotherapists' chronic lack of self care. J Clin Psychol. 2002;58:1433-1441. Abstract

  21. Fetter KL. We grieve too: one inpatient oncology unit's interventions for recognizing and combating compassion fatigue. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2012;16:559-561. Accessed March 13, 2013.

  22. Bilazarian S. The very serious issue of physician burnout. Medscape Cardiology. November 29, 2012. Accessed March 14, 2013.

  23. McMurray JE, Linzer M, Konrad TR, Douglas J, Shugerman R, Nelson K. The work lives of women physicians: results from the Physician Work Life Study. The SGIM Career Satisfaction Study Group. J Gen Intern Med. 2000;15:372-380. Accessed March 13, 2013.

  24. Dyrbye LN, Freischlag J, Kaups KL, et al. Work-home conflicts have a substantial impact on career decisions that affect the adequacy of the surgical workforce. Arch Surg. 2012;147:933-939. Abstract

  25. Ducker D. Research on women physicians with multiple roles: a feminist perspective. J Am Med Womens Assoc. 1994;49:78-84. Abstract

  26. Asch DA, Jedrziewski MK, Christakis NA. Response rate to mail surveys published in medical journals. J Clin Epidemiol. 1997;50:1129-1136. Abstract

  27. U.S. Travel Association. Travel facts and statistics. Accessed February 8, 2012.

  28. Johnson K. Peer support trumps time off in preventing MD burnout. Medscape Medical News. November 6, 2012. Accessed March 15, 2013.

  29. Centor RM, Morrow RW, Poses RM, et al. Doc burnout -- worse than other workers'. Medscape Family Medicine. November 13, 2012. Accessed March 15, 2013.

  30. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life/U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. February 2008. Accessed February 13, 2011.

  31. Clearfield E, Batalova J. Foreign-born health-care workers in the United States. Migration Policy Institute. February 2007. Accessed February 4, 2012.

  32. The Physicians Foundation. A survey of America's physicians: practice patterns and perspectives. September 2012. Accessed November 16, 2012.

  33. Vicentic S, Gasic MJ, Milovanovic A, et al. Burnout, quality of life and emotional profile in general practitioners and psychiatrists. Work. 2013 Jan 2. [Epub ahead of print]

  34. Cooke GP, Doust JA, Steele MC. A survey of resilience, burnout, and tolerance of uncertainty in Australian general practice registrars. BMC Med Educ. 2013;13:2. doi: 10.1186/1472-6920-13-2.

Authors and Disclosures


Carol Peckham

Director of Editorial Development, Medscape


All material on this website is protected by copyright, Copyright © 1994-2016 by WebMD LLC. This website also contains material copyrighted by 3rd parties.